I love hearing anyone sharing their birth stories, I am a total sucker for them. I guess lots of us are, hence the popularity of programs like One Born Every Minute. All birth stories come with their share of courage in the face of adversity, strength, stamina and willpower, uncertainty and fear, and then so much love. Regardless of how babies are born, the range of human emotions involved is staggering and beautiful. How could you not want to hear those stories?
Today, I am finding myself thinking a lot about a day, five years ago now, when I became a mother. I had seen my midwife the day before, already nine days over my due date, and had myself booked in for an induction in a few days time, like a good little patient doing what I was told. I had a stretch and sweep, my third by this point, and waited to see what would happen.
Through the rest of that day I had a little show and some crampy pains, though I’d had that after my other sweeps and nothing had happened. My husband was working a late shift that night, so I had a quiet night in, spending several hours on the cross trainer, trying to encourage things along. Before going to bed I texted my husband saying that this baby wasn’t going to make an appearance anytime soon!
When he got home, I was having a bit of back ache, so he cuddled up close, like my own personal hot water bottle, and we went to sleep.
I woke up at around half two, quickly becoming pretty certain that I was having contractions. They were uncomfortable, but manageable, so I decided to get up and watch some telly by myself, and spend some time bouncing on my birth ball. After a couple of hours of this I changed to pacing up and down the hallway, only a few yards long but the longest straight space in our house. At this point I decide that if I have to be up doing this, then my husband should be too, plus I thought I needed my TENS machine now and I needed him to help me put it on.
We passed another few hours like this, bouncing, pacing, telly watching, and pressing the boost button on my TENS machine every three minutes or so. I was doing ok, but these contractions definitely counted as painful in my mind. My midwife had told me to time the contractions, and once they were coming every three minutes I needed to go to the hospital, so I got my husband to phone the on call midwife. She wanted to speak to me whilst I was having a contraction. I may have tried to exaggerate it all a little so she’d agree to us coming in, after all, my midwife told me I needed to once they were every three minutes. I was just doing what I was told!! The midwife on the phone didn’t sound at all convinced, but she said we could come in. We only lived across the road, so my husband picked up the hospital bag, and we made our way to walk in.
It was around quarter to seven in the morning, and entering the grounds of the hospital I was quite conscious of trying to get safely inside the maternity unit before I ran into any of my colleagues arriving early for their day shift. I had to keep stopping every few minutes, clinging onto my husband through the contraction, before hurrying on again once it passed. Once we made it in, we were greeted by a very grumpy lead midwife, who made me feel distinctly like I was making a big fuss about nothing. I was examined by a slightly nicer midwife, who told me I was only three cms, and that I wasn’t in established labour at all, that these contractions were still mild, I was coping well and should go home and have some breakfast.
I was understandably a bit disappointed by this news, but was happy enough to go home, particularly after my run in with the grumpy midwife. On the walk home I developed a desperate craving for chicken breasts, stuffed with mozzarella and wrapped in Parma ham. I decided that there was absolutely no other food that could possibly satisfy my breakfast needs, and as we had none of the required ingredients in the house, I made the strange decision to send my husband off to the supermarket to do some shopping. I had found the walk home a little harder than before, but I seemed to have no qualms about being home alone.
Literally the moment my husband shut the front door behind him, my contractions completely changed. They suddenly became far more intense, to the extent that I was knelt on the floor, leaning over the sofa, moaning loudly. I really wasn’t able to stand up at all and it didn’t feel like I was getting any break between them at all. I was continuously boosting my TENS machine, but by this point it didn’t really feel like it was doing much. As soon as my husband arrived back I told him he had to take him straight back to the hospital, because there was no way I was going to cope with hours and hours like this. I was going to need an epidural!!
We drove back to the hospital this time. I could barely stand at this point, let alone walk in. As we got back into the delivery suite they showed me into a room just as another contraction hit, and I dropped straight to my knees, knowing there was a junior doctor I knew sat at a desk right behind me, with me with my bum in the air. Dignity had officially left me.
A lovely, rather old school, midwife came to check on me. She examined me again, and I feared the worst, it was less than two hours since the last one and I was fully expecting there to be a long road ahead of me. I could have kissed her when she said I was 8cm already. As she went off to book me into the computer I felt my waters break, and shortly after this I really felt an intense desire to start pushing.
Here came the hardest part of the whole thing for me. She insisted on examining me yet again before ‘allowing’ me to start pushing. On that examination she found there was still an anterior lip of cervix, and told me that I absolutely must not push. I had to get up off my knees, the only place I could feel at all comfortable, and lie on my side, which was awful in itself, and then try desperately hard not to push. When every single part of your body is trying to push, but the only thing you can’t do is push, it just feels impossible. The midwife thought she heard some decelerations so I got hooked up to the monitor too. There followed well over an hour of me trying my hardest to ignore my body and desperately distract myself and puffing away on the gas and air trying to deal with the pain. It was torture.
Eventually I think my midwife took pity on me. I got examined again and the lip was still there, but this time she managed to push it out of the way, and I was given the go ahead to push. Finally being able to get back on my knees was fabulous and being able to push was great, in theory, but I think by this point I’d spent so long fighting it that I found the whole thing quite strange. The midwife would be going “PUUSSSHHHHH” and I’d be trying my best, and she’d tell me that I wasn’t really pushing very well, maybe I should try a different position. Then maybe I should try and have a wee. Her idea of me having a wee was putting me on the commode, in the middle of the room, with the blinds open, and a midwife, my husband, and a midwifery student all watching me, whilst still hooked up to the monitors. Strangely I wasn’t able to wee in that situation, so then they decided I needed a catheter instead. All of this was a bit distracting when I was really trying to push. The monitor kept losing the trace so then they’d fiddle with them again.
After numerous changes of position they finally got me on my back with my legs up in stirrups with everybody just shouting at me to push. Eventually this was how my daughter made her arrival. I think there was a little bit of bleeding, and before I knew it I had been given the injection I had specifically refused on my birth plan, and they were catheterising me again. To be perfectly honest I didn’t care too much at that point as I was finally able to meet my little girl and she was so perfect.
As I was telling her how much I loved her, I started hearing rumblings about tears, with lots of people now fussing down that end. I asked for the gas and air back again as I was starting to get very uncomfortable. Just as I was feeling all blissful with my baby girl, they started talking about taking me to theatre, spinal anaesthetic, and serious tears. I had been so excited at the thought of just going home with my baby, and now they were saying I’d have to leave my baby to go to theatre, and I’d be staying in hospital overnight after all. Having kept it kind of together all this time, this was when I burst into tears.
Overall the birth went really well. As a first timer I had absolutely no idea what to expect, and I did manage to give birth without any interventions, and just gas and air. That alone pretty much exceeded my hopes. And I had a fabulous baby girl and she definitely exceeded my expectations in every way. I learnt a lot from the experience though, and I chose to try and have a very different birth experience the second time. But that story can definitely wait for another day. Now I’m going to go and help my five year old celebrate her big day.